Shawl haul: Kalabandar's treasures

I am powerless over textiles, especially wearable ones.

Thanks to my friend "diverchic" who forwarded her invitation, I visited the local show of textile importers Jeffrey Hess and Jan Becker of Kalabandar. Their downtown Victorian home overflowed with scarves and shaw
ls from their annual four-month travels through India, Thailand and Laos.

Somehow, three hours flew by.
I was as intrigued by their stories and deep knowledge as by their wares. The dashing Jeff and willowy Jan met eight years ago in a textile shop in Jaipur; how perfect is that? They now commission pieces, choosing colours and styles, and buy from artisans who have developed signature techniques.

They showed me ikats, unusual silk weaves, jacquards and Muga wild silk till my textile-loving heart beat like a hummingbird's wing. After long deliberation, I chose three handwoven shawls: an Ajrak traditional rust, cream and blue woodblock print, a silver/black silk Thai ikat, and a textured wool/silk in blues and deep greens. At the last minute, I added a silk/cotton summery stripe to the stack and willed myself to stop right now.

I'm wearing the Ajrak in my current blog photo and at left; the stripe is below, worn pallu style.

Prices range for about $30 to several hundred dollars, with many superb pieces in the $60-$90 range. And on
e does not 'outgrow' a shawl!

While I chose, women arrived with gowns, their mother's requests, and memories of last year's finds. Everyone tells you what looks best; I enjoy that communal atmosphere.

Jan has an eye for the subtleties of colour and proportion; she's a professional photographer. Jeff, an historian and collector, re-folded countle
ss pieces while recalling their provenance.

They host spring and fall shows in Toronto for the public each year; the next will be in November. To receive a notice, contact Kalabandar100 (at) hotmail (dot)
com. They also sell at Harbourfront's outdoor summer marketplace and in Blue Banana in Kensington Market, but you won't find the most refined pieces there.

Shopping in their home is the next best thing to tucking into weaver's stall in Kashmir or trawling a Thai market- with the advantage of good-natured counsel.

I wrenched myself away before jeopardizing the right to even read frugality blogs, and walked around the corner to a favourite Vietnamese restaurant, Pho 88, for a late lunch.

As I passed the sidewalk browsers trying on fake Vuitton hats, buying crates of Pakistani mangoes, reading Chinese newspapers, I was once again grateful for the diversity of my city.


Susan B said…
Those are beautiful shawls! Thanks for sharing them. Wish I lived closer to Toronto.
Those are lovely and I'm bookmarking them for the next time I travel to Toronto, and writing for the public sale notices, in case that coincides with a trip. I usually have very little time to shop, but when I work in T.O. it is usually at or around University of Toronto or OISE, so Kensington Market is close by. Nice to know there is some clothing worth looking at; most of it is junk, as you know...

I'm also sending this info on to friends in Toronto.

Non-Torontonians should know it is a good location for food, cafés and just people-watching, just off the old Spadina shopping area, once Eastern-European Jewish, now very Chinese and Southeast Asian. Also many Portuguese in the area.

And phô! Truly a marvel, so tasty, not very caloric and usually cheap.

My favourite hole-in-the-wall (but very clean) Vietnamese restaurant near here (Jean-Talon Market area) is Nhu Y on Jean-Talon a bit west of St-Laurent, for phô and many other wonders. It is even a byow.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Worth a trip! Kensington is not a place I shop for clothes.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Of course I can send to you.
materfamilias said…
What a wonderful day and what beautiful purchases! You'll have decades of pleasure from these, something you couldn't say easily for anything else that money could have bought -- so, really, frugal indeed;-)
StyleSpy said…
Hah! That first sentence made me laugh out loud. "Powerless over textiles." Oh, I understand...
NancyDaQ said…
Oh, I'm so jealous!
Beautiful textiles in both colour and texture.
Mardel said…
Oooh, gorgeous textiles; you had me with the first line. Your finds are gorgeous and surely frugal as they will bring a lifetime of wear.
Frugal Scholar said…
I'm a textile person too, in spite of the fact that I don't sew or knit or anything.

Love the communal shopping too!
Jan and Jeff have kindly answered my e-mail and said that their e-mailing would have the subject line: "Indian Scarves and Shawls", so I don't stick it in the spam pile along with all the male enhancement scams.

I love such pieces: you can really touch and see the artistry of the craftsperson who made them.
Maria said…
I was fortunate enough to meet Jan and Jeff at a craft show in Toronto a few years ago. I have since moved to Montreal so I cannot attend their home show however I still have the shawls I purchased from them - and I wear them quite often.
Duchesse, you must read this thought-provoking piece about Germaine Greer's lust for handcrafted textiles:
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Thank you! A woman after my own heart/mind in many respects- I have seen her speak several times. She hints at this passion in "The Change", when she advises that older women should follow the example of Italian women and dress in beautiful fabrics (the subtext being not to worry about the body shape).

She also said, in an interview, that she buys Missoni on sale b/c she loves the textiles and that the workers are paid decently.

Wouldn't we love to see her collection!
Jan and Jeff, Kalabandar said…
Lagatta, Woven Gardens in Montreal is now carrying a selection of our scarves and stoles. You can find them at 4875A, rue Sherbrooke O, Westmount They carry all kinds of wonderful things from India.

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